Who’s eligible for the identity theft protection and credit monitoring services being offered through Experian?

Anyone who’s filed a tax return in South Carolina since 1998, regardless of whether they still live in South Carolina, is eligible for the coverage. Eligibility also is being offered to dependents who were included in those tax returns. About 3.6 million Social Security numbers were exposed in the cyber-attack, and that’s the total number of affected files. South Carolina has about 4.6 million residents.

How long will it take to determine what information was actually taken?

Gov. Nikki Haley and SLED Chief Mark Keel said they don’t know whose or what information was compromised. That is, they don’t know which taxpayers’ information the hackers took or whether they took Social Security numbers, credit/debit card numbers, connected names/addresses, etc. That’s why they’re covering everybody. “It may be some weeks before we will know exactly what information was compromised and what was not,” Keel said. “You have this database, we don’t know exactly what was extracted from that database.”

When the state figures out what specifically was taken and some people aren’t affected, does the state plan to revoke their one year of Experian coverage?

No. The findings won’t affect the protection being offered now.

Will children be covered under the Experian monitoring and insurance service?

Yes. Experian can’t legally sign children up for the service without their parents’ authorization. Everyone who signs up for the protection from Experian will receive in about two weeks an email (if they registered online) or a letter (if they registered by phone) that will provide further instructions on how to enroll any dependents who were listed on their tax files, according to the Governor’s Office. The process for enrolling dependents will be similar to the one for enrolling adults.

My children don’t have credit but were listed as dependents on my tax filing. Should I enroll them in Experian’s services?

Yes. Most children don’t have credit files, so Experian will monitor their information for the creation of one. If they have credit files, their parents would be alerted to any changes made to it, according to the Governor’s Office. If anything happens, parents will receive an email or letter, and their child will have access to the same kind of fraud resolution and protection available to adults. For more information on the service that will be offered, go to familysecure.com. Children’s coverage also is retroactive.

What about business owners who file separate tax returns for their companies? Are they eligible for Experian’s free monitoring services?

Those records have not been compromised, so businesses aren’t eligible, according to the Governor’s Office.

If those who accessed the state’s files could wait years before using the information to affect my finances, why is the state’s contract with Experian only for one year?

State officials are negotiating with Experian to see what they can do beyond one year, according to the Governor’s Office. Experian will offer re-enrollment to each individual for a fee at the end of the year.

Can you change your Social Security number?

The Social Security Administration does not routinely assign different social security numbers, but one of the few circumstances when you might be assigned a new one is if you are a victim of identity theft and continue to be disadvantaged by using the original number. For more information, search the FAQ section of ssa.gov.

Why does the state keep tax records dating back to 1998?

The state Department of Revenue didn’t have a policy on how long it would store those documents until James Etter took over as director in January 2011, according to the Governor’s Office. Since then, it’s decided 15 years would be an appropriate time period, and they’ve been destroying files from before that time.

What’s the deadline to sign up for protection?

Those affected have until Jan. 31 to sign up, and the service will be retroactive, which means you are insured going back to the date of the breach. Still, state officials have encouraged residents to take advantage of the free protection sooner rather than later. It makes sense to sign up as soon as possible to hear about any anomalous activity involving your credit right when it happens.

Is there a downside to signing up for Experian?

It doesn’t appear there is, other than the potential time and hassle required to sign up for the service. Experian is providing for a year $1 million of insurance against fraud per taxpayer or $2 million for a taxpayer with children, as well as one year of monitoring that includes checks predating the breach. Because officials don’t know how at risk each person is individually, it makes sense to play it safe. Experian also says you will be offered re-enrollment after a year, not automatically signed up. And since you don’t have to enter your credit card information, it seems unlikely you would end up unwittingly paying for something you don’t want.